Auschwitz has a unique place in history. It is where the largest mass
murder ever recorded occurred. Yet it is hard to grasp how and why such
a chilling place existed.
Now the untold story of Auschwitz is to be revealed in a definitive
BBC series to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camp
in January 2005.
Written and produced by Bafta Award-winning producer Laurence Rees,
and using new research, Auschwitz: The Nazis
& the 'Final Solution' offers a unique perspective on the camp
in which more than one million people were ruthlessly murdered.
The series follows the trail of evil from the origins of Auschwitz
as a place to hold Polish political prisoners, through the Nazi solution
for what they called 'the Jewish problem' to the development of the
camp as a mechanised factory for mass murder.
It interweaves new testimony from camp survivors and members of the
SS with archive footage and drama reconstructions of some of the key
And for the first time on television, the buildings that made up Auschwitz-Birkenau
are recreated from the original blueprints, using photo-real graphics.
"The name Auschwitz is quite rightly a byword for horror," says series
producer Laurence Rees.
"But the problem with thinking about horror is that we naturally turn
away from it.
"Our series is not only about the shocking, almost unimaginable
pain of those who died, or survived, Auschwitz. It's about how the Nazis
came to do what they did.
"I feel passionately that being horrified is not enough. We need
to make an attempt to understand how and why such horrors happened if
we are ever to be able to stop them occurring again."
The series is the result of three years of in-depth research, drawing
on the close involvement of world experts on the period, including Professors
Sir Ian Kershaw and David Cesarani.
It is based on nearly 100 interviews with survivors and perpetrators,
many of whom are speaking in detail for the first time.
Sensitively shot drama sequences, filmed on location using German and
Polish actors, bring recently discovered documents to life on screen,
whilst specially commissioned computer images give a historically accurate
view of Auschwitz-Birkenau at all its many stages.
The computer-animated images are based on plans from the Auschwitz
construction offices which were captured after the war, eye-witness
testimony and aerial photos, and include the undressing room, the gas
chamber and the oven room of one of the crematorium complexes, as well
as illustrations of Himmler's vision for a new Germanised town of Auschwitz.
The BBC will be marking Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2005) with
a number of other television and radio programmes, including a live
event on the day, an international musical performance in and around
the museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and a documentary that traces one
woman's story of survival seen through her grandson's eyes.
A BBC book written by Laurence Rees, Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final
Solution', accompanies the series.
The WW2 People's War website at bbc.co.uk/ww2 is actively seeking memories
and testimony from people involved in the liberation of camps and ghettos,
or who knew or worked with refugees.
A history of the Holocaust can be found on bbc.co.uk/history.